Myth of invincibility shattered: evaluation of current trends in the conservation status of marine species

Patterns of extinction risk and threat for marine vertebrates and habitat species in the Tropical Eastern Pacific

Abstract: Marine conservation activities around the globe are largely undertaken in the absence of comprehensive species-specific information. To address this gap, complete regional species assemblages of major marine taxa are being progressively assessed against the Categories and Criteria of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species. The present study is the first analysis of entire major components of the biota of a large marine biogeographic region conducted in the Tropical Eastern Pacific (TEP). It is based on recently completed IUCN Red List assessments for all known species of bony and cartilaginous shorefishes, corals, mangroves, and seagrasses in the TEP. Twelve percent of the >1600 species assessed are in threatened categories, indicative of elevated extinction risk. Spatial analysis of all assessed taxonomic groups, including previous IUCN Red List assessments for seabirds, marine mammals, and marine turtles, highlights specific geographical areas of elevated threatened species richness. The distribution of threatened species in the TEP is primarily linked to areas with high rates of overfishing, habitat loss, and increasing El NiƱo-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) event impacts, as well as oceanic islands with high stochastic risk factors for endemic species. Species assigned to the highest threat categories have life history traits that likely decrease their resilience to various regional and site-specific threats. Comprehensive information in the form of IUCN Red List assessments combined with spatial analysis will greatly help to refine both site- and speciesspecific marine conservation priorities in the TEP.

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